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Progress may come at high price for hosts

Brazil have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Close encounter: Neymar was carried off on a stretcher following a foul by Colombia's Juan Zuniga. Picture: EPA
Close encounter: Neymar was carried off on a stretcher following a foul by Colombia's Juan Zuniga. Picture: EPA

That is a statement which benefits from being laid out plainly, since their route would become difficult to follow and at times seemed to be lost altogether. Colombia lost the match last night 2-1. They were only beaten eventually.

It is the host nation which has reached the semi-finals of the competition, while Germany will comprise their opponents. This was not Brazil at their coruscating best; they did not strut into the next phase accompanied a samba beat. Instead they stumbled and almost lost their rhythm as Colombia rallied.

They were first provoked, of course. Fortaleza was consumed by a sea of yellow - the colour of each teams' home shirt - and the atmosphere rippled and swelled as the match got underway. The Colombians were then sunk after seven minutes as Thiago Silva opened the scoring by dunting the ball into the net with his knee. The Brazil captain was been allowed to wander alone at the far post, being found only by a corner from Neymar.

Silva might have savoured his moment even more had he been aware that an indiscretion during the second half would incur a yellow card. He will now miss the match with the Germans.

A seat in the stands might not have felt like the worst place to be to witness Brazil's second goal. It came from a free-kick, one conjured by David Luiz who lifted the ball over the wall and back down under the crossbar. The ball was delivered after 68 minutes. It was received with wild celebrations from the home supporters.

Such fervour would be tempered just 12 minutes later; James Rodriguez - whose talent has been illuminated during these finals - converted a penalty to bring Colombia back into the tie. It was the Monaco forward's sixth goal of the tournament and his compatriots might have added a couple of their own, only for the South Americans to strike the crossbar and have another shot ruled out controversially for a foul.

A blast from the referee's whistle later awoke the hosts to the risk of losing Neymar, with the forward carried off on a stretcher after he was bundled over by Juan Zuniga. Another shrill whistle would interrupt that feeling of concern, with Brazil having reached the last four.

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